‘Shocking and inexplicable’: Spy court appoints partisan Obama official to head FBI reforms

by WorldTribune Staff, January 12, 2020

The former Department of Justice official selected to oversee FBI reforms in the wake of the FISA scandal was a defender of the FBI’s spying on Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

David S. Kris was named to review the FBI’s handling of the Page surveillance warrants and to “assist” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in assessing the FBI’s implementation of a series of reforms to address the problems uncovered in last month’s DOJ Inspector General report.

David S. Kris. / C-SPAN

Judge James E. Boasberg, who presides over the FISC, appointed Kris, who was an assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration.

The choice of Kris is “shocking and inexplicable,” Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s hard to imagine a worse person the FISC could have chosen outside Comey, McCabe, or Schiff.”

Related: Another Justice Dept. cover-up? Benghazi reporter Sharyl Attkisson still awaiting answers, January 10, 2020

Page also weighed in on Kris’s selection to oversee the FBI’s reforms.

“If there were any hopes for the system fixing this FISA mess, it extinguished with David Kris’ appointment,” he told the Daily Caller.

“Nobody trying to fix the rampant abuse and coverup plaguing the entire FISA process would have picked Kris,” continued Page, who called Kris a “longtime FISA apologist.”

Amid the Trump-Russia investigation, Kris had written that Republicans had “falsely accused” the FBI of misleading the FISC in its wiretap applications to spy on the Trump campaign.

Kris also backed the FBI in its assertion that there was probable cause to believe that Page was a foreign agent of Russia — “an allegation that was all but debunked by the special counsel’s report and the inspector general’s report,” the Daily Caller noted.

In a March 1, 2018 essay for Lawfare, a blog operated by the Brookings Institution, Kris wrote: “It’s disturbing that Page met that legal standard and that there was probable cause to conclude he was a Russian agent.”

The Daily Caller noted that “Kris’s assessment — which echoed that of many Democrats and liberals in the media — accepted the FBI’s claim at face value that Page was a Russian asset. The FBI made the assertion in four applications to the FISC to wiretap Page. The basis for the allegation was the Democrat-funded Steele dossier.”

In his Lawfare essay, Kris criticized Nunes over a memo he released Feb. 2, 2018, laying out a list of alleged problems with the FBI’s rationale to surveil Page.

Kris asserted that Nunes “falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court.” He also questioned whether Nunes and other Republicans would “face any consequences for their dishonesty.”

“The Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy,” wrote Kris, who is now a consultant at Culper Partners and frequent guest on MSNBC.

Kris went as far as entertaining the possibility, first proposed by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, that “Nunes might be prosecuted for obstruction of justice.”

Kris also wrote that the memo’s central claim that the FBI misled the FISC about Christopher Steele “was not true.”

Kris has acknowledged since the release of the IG report that the FBI committed some “significant and serious” errors in its Carter Page FISA applications. He also conceded in a Lawfare essay published Dec. 23, 2019, that Nunes’s assertion that the FBI engaged in irregular behavior was “correct.”

The Daily Caller noted that “for Kris, the biggest takeaway from the IG report were the findings that reflected positively on the FBI.”

He wrote on Twitter the day the report was released that “the most important take-away” from the report was that the FBI did not exert political bias in order to undermine the Trump campaign. He also wrote that the errors identified in the IG report “don’t support any claim of deep-state conspiracy or political bias.”

“The FISC chose a guy who utterly denied the abuses of the Carter Page FISA warrant and then downplayed them when the Inspector General reported on them,” Nunes told the Daily Caller.

The DOJ IG report said the FBI withheld information regarding Page, a former Naval officer, that undercut the idea that he was a Russian agent. FBI agents also failed to disclose information that raised questions about the credibility and reliability of dossier author Christopher Steele. The anti-Trump dossier was a key piece of evidence used by the FBI to obtain the FISA warrants.

On Dec. 17, FISC Judge Rosemary Collyer ordered the FBI to provide a plan to address problems identified in the IG report. Collyer criticized the FBI for providing “false” and “misleading” information about Page in order to obtain four warrants to wiretap the former Trump campaign adviser.

FBI Director Christopher Wray submitted a response to Collyer’s order on Friday. He apologized for the errors in the wiretap applications submitted to the FISC, and said he plans to implement dozens of reforms to address the problems identified in the IG report.

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